AZUSA, Calif. -- After enduring a slow start to the season, both overall and in its new conference, Azusa Pacific notched a sweep of Holy Names Monday that gave the Cougars three consecutive Pacific West Conference victories to even its PacWest record at 3-3 this season.
Senior pitcher Rita Kim continued her outstanding early-season run with a complete-game three-hit shutout in an 8-0 six-inning mercy-rule win in the opener, and fellow senior Mariah Worley scattered two runs on five hits in a 3-2 victory in the nightcap. Over her last three starts spanning 20 innings, including Monday’s three-hit, six-strikeout effort, Kim has surrendered just six hits without an earned run while striking out 21.
With consecutive two-for-three efforts at the plate, senior shortstop Rachel Miller bolstered an offense which registered 18 hits on the day. At the top of the lineup, senior centerfielder Angie Sprague and sophomore second baseman Katrina Oviedo both hit safely and drove in runs in both games of the doubleheader, while freshman catcher Madison Hernandez blasted a two-run home run, her second of the season, in the 8-0 opening-game win.
“We knew it would take a little time for us to come into our own,” Azusa Pacific head coach Carrie Webber said. “As long as we’re consistently getting better every game, I can be okay with that. We’re hitting the ball a little bit better every game, and our pitchers are throwing well and getting better every game, and that type of development is a healthy sign for me.”
The Hernandez home run came with two outs in the fifth, making it a 6-0 lead for the Cougars, who scored runs in every inning after going scoreless the first two frames. In the third inning, sophomore Sona Babayan got things going with a one-out bunt single between first base and the pitcher, and Holy Names committed two errors to help extend the inning for the Cougars. Oviedo’s one-out single down the first base line drove in the first two runs of the game, and senior rightfielder Brandi Andrews pushed Oviedo across with a sacrifice fly.
Miller singled and scored in the fourth inning, making it a 4-0 lead for Azusa Pacific, and the Hernandez homer pushed the lead to 6-0. The Cougars wrapped up the game in the sixth when Sprague’s one-out double scored runners from second and third for the 8-0 victory.
“With this team, it’s going to take a collaborative effort offensively to win ballgames,” Webber said. “It’s not going to be off one or two home runs this year, because that’s just not how we’re built. Learning how to put a sequence of hits together and play small ball are the things we’re going to need to do to manufacture runs. This year, it’s going to take the whole team every game.”
Another pair of errors cost Holy Names dearly in the second game, allowing three unearned runs across the plate in the fourth inning. Miller led off with a double, the only hit of the frame, but two Holy Names errors on sacrifice bunts helped the Cougars score two runs before a third sacrifice bunt, this one off the bat of Oviedo, scored Brittni Moreno from third base to give Azusa Pacific a 3-1 lead.
The Cougars gave one of the runs back, committing two errors of its own in the top of the fifth to allow Holy Names to cut the lead to 3-2. Worley retired seven of the next eight before loading the bases with two outs in the seventh, and she got Hailey McGuigan to line out to second base to leave the bases loaded when the game ended.
Sprague, Miller, and senior designated player Heather Koch each collected a pair of hits in the second game, accounting for all but two of Azusa Pacific’s hits in the contest.
Holy Names leadoff hitter Alexis Moctezuma was the only offensive player to hit safely in both games for the Hawks, as she notched two of her team’s three hits in the opener before going one-for-three with a run in the nightcap.
With the sweep, Azusa Pacific improves to 11-7 overall and 3-3 in the PacWest. Holy Names, which snapped a 12-game losing streak with a victory over California Baptist last Saturday, drops to 2-22 overall and 1-3 in PacWest play. The teams will wrap up their four-game series with a 2 p.m. doubleheader Tuesday afternoon.